Climate Change

Prospects for coordinated global action on climate change

I have a post/media release prepared which describes my upcoming book: Why vs Why™ Nuclear Power (by Barry W. Brook and Ian Lowe). However, I’m can’t post this until Tuesday — when the book arrive back to Pantera Press from the printers and binders!

(Also, check out this image: Planes vs Volcanoes — a REAL carbon offset: just brilliant).

Anyway, for now, I’d like to give those BNC readers in Adelaide a head’s up for the following upcoming seminar. I’ll be MCing the event.

Prospects for Coordinated Global Action on Climate Change: A View from the United States

Free public event with Franz Litz (reserve a seat here). The event will also be podcast at The Environment Institute website.

Now that the dust has settled on the Accord reached by international climate change negotiators in Copenhagen, what are the prospects for concerted global action to fend off the worse effects of climate change? The non-binding Copenhagen Accord relies on a country-by-country approach to emissions reductions, coupled with a framework for measuring, monitoring and verifying those reductions. This bottom-up approach was made necessary in part by the domestic political context within the United States-the largest contributor to climate change pollution and perhaps the slowest major economy to take concerted national action to reduce emissions. But can a bottom-up approach be successful?

Time: 6pm

Date: April 23

Venue: G04 Napier Building, The University of Adelaide (map here).

Bio: Franz Litz is a senior fellow with the World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C. Franz leads WRI’s climate change work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and at the state and provincial levels in North America. He has played an active role in advising the major regional climate change initiatives in the United States and Canada, as well as a number of individual states and provinces. Before joining the World Resources Institute, Franz directed New York State’s climate change policy efforts from a post with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

While in New York, Franz was a driving force behind the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an effort by 10 Northeast states to implement the first flexible, market-based cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide in the United States. RGGI is the only mandatory greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program operational in North America. Franz served on the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Market Advisory Committee that issued recommendations on how to implement California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act. Prior to entering public service in New York in 2001, Franz practiced environmental law with the large Boston law firm Brown Rudnick. He is a graduate of Union College, magna cum laude, and Boston College Law School, cum laude.

For a recent summary of Franz’s views, read: US carbon experts see significant impetus for federal cap-and-trade.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

13 replies on “Prospects for coordinated global action on climate change”

Can’t be there but I’d have a few questions. For starters what is a ‘bottom up’ approach? Surely punitive action like international carbon tariffs are ‘top down’? At what point do human efforts at CO2 reduction get swept aside by fossil fuel depletion?

I’d like to see how albedo effects of the Iceland dust cloud pan out despite trivial CO2 release. Mt Pinatubo created a mild nuclear winter back in the 80’s I believe. Against that we had the warmest ever month of March world wide.


John, the Icelandic volcano injected little material into the stratosphere, so its cooling impact globally will be minimal, and its effect in the North Atlantic will be short-term, as the particles will be quickly washed out the troposphere. It won’t be anything like Pinatubo, from a climate perspective.


Despite what I said at the top of this thread, I wasn’t able to post my book promo on Tuesday – its now been embargoed until 30 April (this kind of makes sense, as the book is not actually available until 3 May). The book’s website will be up and functioning on 30 April also.

I’ll be doing another post in the IFR FaD series tonight.


However, could you be more specific and give me an ETA for the production of synthetic fuel use in nuclear electricity?

The technology for creating synthetic fuels from process heat and/or electricity is available now. The constraint is the price of oil and gas (still cheap and able to undercut synfuels generated from low-carbon power sources), with the other limitation being the current lack of availability of abundant nuclear and/or renewable energy. My projections for 10 TWe by 2050 of clean energy includes the synfuel component.


If this is the synfuel thread; the cost of hydrogen is the key to the economics. Take for example Sabatier methane which could be used in 15 million (?) natural gas vehicles world wide. The shortened reaction is C + 2H2 = CH4. Supposed you could get 12 kilos of biocarbon nearly for free and 4 kilos of hydrogen at say $8 per kg. That’s $32 for 16 kg of methane or $2 per kg giving around 40 MJ of combustion energy. With or without carbon tax petrol will be $2/kg or say $2.20/L within five years or sooner.

An hour ago I bought a drum of NG derived methanol for $1.30/L to make biodiesel from used chip frying oil. That is arguably a hydrogen extender via a convoluted pathway. I think blended methane (natgas, digester gas, converted syngas, hythane) may ultimately the main replacement for petroleum and natural gas but we have to produce H2 cheaper and bigger than conventional electrolysis.


OK here’s more thoughts on synfuels since I have strong ideas on the subject. BTW the s.g. of petrol is apparently about .74 so $2/kg petrol is more like $1.48/L.

The two big ideas I think that need to be conveyed are
– cheap natural gas is a one-off gift from Nature
– battery cars will suit comparatively few motorists.
It seems our political leaders think the alternative to coal fired electricity is token renewables + gas fired. However gas won’t be around that long if we also want it as a petroleum replacement and chemical feedstock. Therefore we should use NP to generate as much electricity as possible and conserve gas for the range of current and prospective uses.

Gas in transport can be used as 220 bar compressed natural gas CNG and 35 bar adsorbed natural gas ANG. Apart from ships I don’t think liquid gas -160C LNG will be used much. NG can be converted to petrol or diesel-like liquids GTL by Fischer-Tropsch methods at some loss perhaps 35% of the raw heating value. I expect piston engines in cars to prevail for decades as ceramic fuel cells that can burn NG are too expensive and hazardous for vehicles.

What is happening now is like two cars approaching on a blind bend. On one side anti-nuclear politicians want gas to replace coal. On the other side oil has already peaked and supplies will be tight perhaps as early as 2012-2014. Since affordable EVs travel 40km on a ‘fill-up’ while NGVs travel 300km I think that’s where transport is going. I don’t believe there will be enough gas here or overseas after 20 years or so to supply both electricity and transport/chemicals . When that cheap NG is gone then we’ll need something to replace it.


I went to see Franz litz at the ANU today. During the question period I asked if there were any specific provisions he knew of in the upcoming climate legislation concerning nuclear power. He replied that nuclear was always going to be part of the deal as some kibd of compromise. He added that there were going to be US$56 billion in ‘subsidies’ for nuclear power. I asked if he were referring to the loan guarantees. He replied that he was not aware of the details.


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